Dania Ramirez Interview For ‘Premium Rush’
Dodging speeding cars, crazed cabbies and eight million cranky pedestrians is all in a day’s work for Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the best of New York’s agile and aggressive bicycle messengers. It takes a special breed to ride the fixie – super lightweight, single-gear bikes with no brakes and riders who are equal part skilled cyclists and nutcases who risk becoming a smear on the pavement every time they head into traffic. But a guy who’s used to putting his life on the line is about to get more than even he is used to when his last envelope of the day – a routine “premium rush” run – turns into a life or death chase through the streets of Manhattan. Co-written and directed by David Koepp, ‘Premium Rush’ stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Jamie Chung, Dania Ramirez, Aasif Mandvi, and Wole Parks. The film is released August 24th in the US and September 14th in the UK.
How did you go about researching your character Vanessa and the bike culture, and how did you that inform your performance? I can imagine this film was a completely unique experience….
Dania Ramirez: Oh yeah. As far as the research for the character and the culture, we did watch a lot of videos, I done a lot of research on the internet to just really figure everything out. You know, it’s not just about riding a bike, it’s really about this underground, really cool, edgy culture that exists all over the world. Bike messengers are not only bike messengers, many of them go into races, and there’s a whole other aspect. When I came out for training before the movie, my trainer hooked me up with some people from the bike messenger culture. I went around with this one girl who’s a bike messenger…because its different too with women and men, having to have a certain kind of strength while you’re riding to make sure you’re present. It’s New York City, so there’s cabs everywhere, people coming from every angle. You have to kind of zip by and have a lot of presence in order for people to respect you on the bike, on your path. It was really interesting to get into that whole thing, I’m really into it now. I think I was in full Vanessa world filming the movie (laughs).
What was the experience like filming in New York City? That must have been an immense challenge. One of the busiest cities in the world and you’re shooting a film on a bike?
Dania Ramirez: Filming in New York City is as much of an asset as it is a challenge. That was one of the most challenging things for me to deal with; not only being able to ride the bike and pull off tricks that I never thought I would be able to do (laughs), but also keeping in mind that the streets are live. Even though we were closing down some streets….well really, just one or two lanes at a time in most cases, but we still had people coming in and out. For every take you had cars that weren’t a part of the filming, people that weren’t extras crossing in front of you. It always kept it exciting (laughs). And being able to stay in character, to stay engaged to the scene that was going on, while yelling at people like, “Excuse me! On your left!” It was tough to keep composure because I’m not this bike messenger in real life, so sometimes it was chaotic, when the camera’s on you, you have to play this girl that’s totally in control. It was fun though, a lot of fun.
How was the experience working with Joseph Gordon-Levitt from your first read-through together, all the way to the end of the film?
Dania Ramirez: He’s so talented, I was excited to work with him from before I even came into read with him, with the chemistry read. Then once I walked into the chemistry read I got even more excited, because I think there was just something in the way that he was that character and that I was this girl. It just came alive when we both did it in the room. So I was excited from then on even more (laughs). It was amazing the whole time working with him, he’s just so into doing his thing, he’s so artistic – he’s an artist. For me, I’m the same kind of way when I’m doing something, I’m doing it all the way. I knew that it was going to be a beautiful journey to actually work with someone who’s really talented, really amazing, and someone I felt like I was really going to connect with on film.
With all the bumps, bruises and scrapes you got working on ‘Premium Rush,’ are you still bike riding now?
Dania Ramirez: I still ride a bike now (laughs). I started riding again properly because I’m doing a triathlon, the Malibu triathlon that’s going on September 16th. All the proceeds for that are actually going to go to the children’s hospital, so I’m excited about that. On ’Premium Rush,’ I fell off my bike every single day (laughs). Well, almost every day, but near enough! It was intense for me, with riding a bike the way you do in this film, there‘s no other choice but to be present. To be on bikes, remembering lines while riding all over New York City in the middle of traffic, it was hard. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he went through a Taxi Cab rear windshield. There’s no CGI, all the stunts were real, that’s pretty cool. And the stunt performers, they were amazing, they were fun to watch.
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